Games have evolved a lot since I began my gaming career back in 1997 on my PS1. In those days, the standard retail price for most games in new condition was $40, especially if they were less than a year old. But even then, the prices never varied too much. The best bargains for unused games was generally a $20 price tag if it was good enough to earn the title “Greatest Hit”. Among my personal bargain finds from the “Greatest Hits” were Castlevania: Symphony of the Night and Final Fantasy VII. Not too shabby, right?
Five hours is not a lot for any game, much less one that has been questioned and scrutinized for potentially being too cinematic since its unveiling.
By now, most of us have heard the controversy surrounding the length of PS4’s upcoming exclusive, The Order: 1886. If you haven’t, a YouTuber in Europe got ahold of the game early and posted a run through of the entire game that totaled about five hours (which has since been removed by YouTube), only two of which involved actual gameplay. This has caused a significant uproar among fans, consumers and journalists alike, and understandably so. Five hours is not a lot for any game, much less one that has been questioned and scrutinized for potentially being too cinematic since its initial unveiling. This is undoubtedly a PR nightmare for the developers at Ready at Dawn, but to be fair, they have denied the claims, citing that internal testing has a normal game run lasting between eight to ten hours.
To put a rational spin on the entire situation, longer game lengths do not equal better games.
To put a rational spin on the entire situation, longer game lengths do not equal better games. Too many games contain large amounts of filler content that can make a game drag on too long. One example of this is 2014’s Alien: Isolation. The game has a solid campaign length, lasting between 15-20 hours, and it is fun for the most part. The problem with the game is that it has the player backtrack through previously trekked areas at an all-too-frequent pace and even takes the Alien out of the equation entirely for a long stretch in an attempt to change things up by relying upon semi-iffy shooting mechanics against enemies that don’t offer nearly the same amount of terror. While the Alien does return, I couldn’t help but feel that there was a lot that could have been cut from the game that would not have been missed. Alien Isolation is a thrilling game when everything is clicking, but the padding only hurt the experience.
As such, I have also experience the complete opposite. Metal Gear Solid on the original Playstation is both one of the shortest and one of the greatest games I have ever played. In fact, it stands to reason that it is one of the greatest games of all time. A standard run had me clock in at about 10 hours, and everything from the compelling narrative, to the epic boss battles and memorable characters had me, and countless other gamers hooked for the entire duration of the game. There was no bland backtracking. No B.S. “fetch 20 of these” quests, nothing. Hideo Kojima and his team never wasted your time with unoriginal filler material. Yes, the game was short. But it left you wanting more, not wishing it was over.
As of this writing, I can’t say definitively what the outcome of The Order: 1886 will be until I get my grubby little hands on it. There have certainly been a number of doubts since the game was first shown off that have stuck around even to this week. The video evidence only served to bring those doubts to the forefront of the internet. What I can say, and what the general gaming audience should try to remember is that if The Order:1886 is a bad game, it won’t be because it’s only five hours long. It will be because it fails at a fundamental level of basic game design. It’s worth mentioning that I have played Metal Gear Solid on PS1 25 times (yes, I kept count). That’s about 250 hours spent with one game, probably more than I will ever spend with Alien Isolation.